Berry and Plant Sampling Status and Initial Results
September 10, 2001
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is sampling subsistence resources in the vicinity of the DeLong Mountain Terminal (Port Site). The sampling is due to local residents’ questions and concerns that resources in the vicinity of the Port Site are being affected by fugitive dust from haul road and port facility activity. Sample results will be helpful in determining whether industrial activity is having an impact on area subsistence foods.
During the week of August 20, 2001 Department of Environmental Conservation staff, with the assistance of residents from Kivalina and Noatak, collected berry and plant samples in areas identified by residents of Kivalina as traditional harvest areas near the Port Site. Samples were also taken near Noatak, to compare with the coastal area samples. Some locations could not be adequately sampled due to low numbers of berries or the fact that some berries were not yet ripe; further sampling will be necessary. DEC is calling the additional sampling phase II sampling. Phase II sampling is planned within the next two weeks. Overall, the sampling team was able to find sufficient numbers of salmonberries and sourdock to meet sampling and analysis requirements for phase I.
Salmonberry and sour dock samples were sent to Battelle Marine Science Laboratories in Sequim, Washington where they were analyzed for lead, cadmium, zinc, chromium, cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel, and selenium. DEC has received initial laboratory results for the coastal salmonberries, which we are providing to you today. We are following up on our promise to distribute raw data from the berry and plant-sampling project, as it becomes available. A table of results (PDF 119K) for salmonberry samples 1- 10 and a map showing sample locations (PDF 214K) are attached. The Sponsor ID column on the table shows the sample number. Sample numbers with the suffix SYC are for washed samples. The SY suffix is for unwashed samples.
Please note that the salmonberry results have not been interpreted. No conclusions can be made by evaluating these partial results. Until the results from the Noatak samples are received, we are unable to make any determination of whether the salmonberries are being impacted by dust from the Port Site or haul road. Results for the coastal and Noatak area sourdock and salmonberries should be available within a couple of weeks, and will be forwarded when received by DEC. When DEC receives all of the results, a statistical comparison of the coastal area samples with the Noatak area samples will be done. The comparison will not address any health concerns by itself, but may help in determining whether Port Site area activities are affecting plant food sources. The comparison cannot be completed until all samples, including the phase II samples, are collected and analyzed. We hope to have the comparison done near the end of October and we will keep you posted on the progress.
The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is in the process of reviewing all available data from the Red Dog Mine and Port Facility to evaluate the potential for public health impacts. As part of this process, DHSS is evaluating berry and sourdock sample results along with all other available environmental, fish and wildlife data. DHSS expects to issue an initial report in October with preliminary results of its evaluation. DHSS and DEC will be returning to Northwest Alaska to present findings and answer questions.
Finally, berry and sourdock sample results will be evaluated along with results for samples taken by others, including the National Park Service and Teck Cominco to determine if sufficient information has been developed to draw conclusions about whether or not environmental impacts are resulting from ore concentrate dust. One of the review outcomes may be the identification of data gaps and identification of future sampling needs. Interested state, local, federal and non-profit agencies, local and tribal governments, individuals, and companies will be able to participate in the review. DEC will have further information about the review process this month.
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